Turkish police intervene in commemoration for slain Kurdish lawyer Elçi

Turkish police intervened with lawyers in Ankara gathered to commemorate Tahir Elçi, former president of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and a prominent human rights lawyer, on the third anniversary of his killng, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Wednesday. 

Police prevented lawyers from openning banners to commemorate Elçi in front of the Turkish capital’s court house, Cumhuriyet said. 

Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer, was shot dead during a gun battle between the police and unidentified gunmen in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır three years ago, while delivering a speech to advocate peace.

Elçi was speaking in front of the historic minaret in Diyarbakır, which was destroyed during Turkish security forces’ operations in the Sur district, which Ankara says is the urban center of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Elçi was killed following numerous death threats he received following his statement on a television program that the PKK is not a terrorist organisation. He was later prosecuted for the statement and was facing trial, despite having denounced PKK’s violence. 

Thousand gathered for the funeral of Elçi in Diyarbakır, including former co-chair of the dominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, who was arrested in November 2016  over terror charges and remains in prison.

“Our scepticism is fair as so many similar sufferings have taken place on our land in this past,” Demirtaş said at the funeral. “We were never able to say goodbye to them with our minds at ease thinking those responsible will be caught.”

Tahir Elçi’s murder remains unsolved and his perpetrators have yet to be found.